You love your loyal canine companion and with good reason! They’re called “man’s best friend”, after all.
But as much as you love spending quality time with your pup, there are probably times when you wonder why your dog keeps following you around everywhere you go. Even the most loving dogs can be a bit much at times and you might even suspect it’s that undying love that keeps them glued to your side.
However, there might be more real science behind why dogs want to follow you around than you might imagine. This post will look at several different potential reasons your dog might follow you everywhere you go, ranging from the more obvious, to factors lying deep underneath the furry surface. If you have ever thought, “why does my dog follow me everywhere?”, then this post is for you.
Reasons Your Dog Follows You Around
If you have yourself a “velcro dog” who is right there on your heels no matter what you happen to be doing, it might grow to be a little bit of a nuisance. However, there may be more to this behavior than you might think.
There are actually several different possible scientific explanations for your dog following you around. So whether you find it endearing or not, here are a few possible reasons.
Yes, this is a real thing, and it happens quite frequently with many different species in the animal kingdom, including dogs. Puppies can imprint on people when they are very young, and consider their owner to be their mother. If a puppy imprints on a human, he will depend on them for everything and follow them around dutifully.
This imprinting period occurs when the puppy is between three and 12 weeks old but can last throughout their lifetime.
If a dog has spent a long period of time bonding with a human through positive reinforcement during canine training, then he will learn that good things such as treats, playtime, and affection will come to them from that particular human. This can make your dog more likely to follow you around.
A potentially obvious reason your dog may follow you around is that dogs are highly food motivated, and you are their gateway to food! It doesn’t even have to be around meal time — dogs will happily accept food at any time and will follow you around in hopes that more food is on the way. So long as you are the one who feeds your dog, he will stay close behind and be especially attentive when you approach his food source.
Certain dog breeds, particularly those that were bred specifically to work side-by-side with people, will be more likely to form close bonds with their humans. These dogs have an inbred need to work and satisfy their humans, so they will follow their owner around, eager to please and be given a task, all day. Often called “velcro dogs,” these clingy pups will need to be close to you at all times.
This one might seem to be the most obvious, but dogs really just like to be loved by their humans! They crave human companionship at all times. This need has been shaped over time during the process of domestication. Dogs are now bonded with humans much in the same way as human children.
Unfortunately, many dogs get separation anxiety when their humans leave them alone. The worst part is dog owners often unknowingly encourage this behavior by making a big deal out of leaving for the day or when they arrive back home. This rewards the dog’s concern with your absence and will encourage the dog to be even more stressed every time you leave.
Sure, it’s nice to have your dog eager to see you when you get home, but you don’t want the behavior to turn into canine separation anxiety.
How Does Following You Around Benefit Your Dog?
You might wonder what kind of satisfaction your dog gets from following you around all the time. Often, the answer is connected to the motivation in the first place.
If your dog is following you because of reinforcement, that behavior is often fortified, because you may praise your dog for doting on you like a good boy. Likewise, those that follow because of a strong food motivation are often rewarded with treats, whether you give them one to try or to make him go away. You dog is provided with companionship by staying by your side, and so on.
So when you ask yourself, “why does my dog follow me wherever I go?”, it’s not because they want to annoy you, it’s simply because they have another motive that you may not be aware of. Overall, by following you, the dog is likely to come in contact with whatever it is that the dog craves or likes, including tasty treats, pets and affection, some playtime, or just the satisfaction of being by its owner’s side and making sure you’re safe and happy!
Rather intuitive animals, by staying by your side so often your dog will also pick up on your behaviors and habits, and learn how to interpret the meaning behind your actions in certain situations. Sometimes it might seem like your dog is studying you while he watches your every move, and that’s because that’s exactly what he is doing!
Dogs have the ability to understand the tone of your voice, parts of our language, and can even understand certain gestures. They may be able to gain clues to your intentions and think you are communicating with them even if you aren’t consciously. This is how a dog is able to anticipate when it is time for a walk, as you see them get excited or move toward the door when you put on your sneakers.
They may seem sad when you pull out a suitcase because they know it means you are about to leave. And they may again get excited when you move toward the closet that holds their food at dinner time. They are experts in physical and spoken human language and know your ticks and habits better than you do yourself.
When Your Dog Follows You Everywhere, Are There Any Benefits For You?
Since the relationship between dogs and humans goes both ways, there are also numerous potential benefits to you.
Firstly, a loving and affectionate dog that always stays by your side can help prevent loneliness, helping to improve your overall mood. Dogs provide unconditional love and having a pet that always wants to be near you can help keep you positive even if you’re feeling down. And yes, they can pick up on that too.
Since dogs often follow you around craving activity, such as a walk, a game of fetch, or something else, it also is a benefit to humans because it gets you active as well. Studies have shown that even just brief interactions with your dog can reduce anxiety and improve your mood.
Dogs can even improve your overall health, as helping you exercise regularly will improve your heart health, reduce stress, and even potentially help detect certain diseases, such as cancer. And a big part of the reason dogs are called “man’s best friend” is because of their ability to understand your mood and cues like no one else can.
Of course, everything is best in moderation, and there are limits to what constitutes a healthy amount of following. But the line between “healthy” and “troubling” can often be hard to decipher. Let’s take a look.
Understanding When Your Dog’s Following Behavior Has Gone Too Far
A certain level of following and looking to you for cues and commands is healthy for any dog, and important for a good owner-pet relationship. But there are instances when a dog can follow you around too much, and an inability to separate from his owner can cause problems.
This is especially true if the dog has chosen one particular person to remain completely loyal to. It may get to the point that the dog is fearful or avoids all other humans. This could be because the dog was not properly socialized, or just has bonded too strongly with a single person. These dogs are at the highest risk for developing separation anxiety, as well as other behavioral problems, such as fear aggression.
Separation anxiety can be a serious problem for your dog and affect your relationship as well, as the animal may become more of a burden on you to worry about whenever you have to leave.
How To Tell If Your Dog Has Separation Anxiety
Separation anxiety in a dog comes with a set of poor behaviors. Here are some of the bad habits that may emerge if your dog is suffering from separation anxiety.
A common behavior in dogs with separation anxiety is to lash out through destructive behavior. In an effort to get your attention, to let you know they are displeased with you leaving, or simply to burn off their energy, dogs with separation anxiety may often damage things around the house, most often at entry and exit points such as doorways and windows.
This also puts the dogs at risk of harming themselves. They may injure themselves trying to break out of doors or windows or even attempting to break free from their crates. Dogs in heightened states of anxiety will try with all their might to get out and find you, which can lead to serious injuries and expensive veterinary bills for you, on top of the damage they cause to your home.
Separation anxiety can also turn a sweet dog into a more aggressive animal, and the aggression can be both direct and indirect, depending on the situation. If a dog acts aggressively toward people or other animals, it is a case of direct aggression, while an example of indirect aggression would be if a person comes between the dog and its source of aggression. You can do all you can to prevent the dog from harming others, but persistent growling and barking will make people and other dogs fearful of your dog, which can make your life more difficult.
Dogs with separation anxiety can also become depressed, especially during times of change. While it is fairly rare for a dog to develop long-term canine depression, it can happen, and the symptoms will closely mirror those found in people. A depressed dog will become withdrawn, eat and sleepless, and no longer want to play or do things they used to enjoy.
Urinating and/or Defecating in the House
Another common symptom of separation anxiety will mean some clean-up for you when you get back home. Dogs that become anxious over you leaving them can often work themselves up to the point that they do a number one or number two in the house, even if they were housebroken long ago. This is obviously quite frustrating for any owner who comes home to find their floor or furniture soiled.
What Can You Do If Your Dog Follows You Too Much?
Since separation anxiety is quite problematic for your relationship with your dog, you should do whatever you can to make sure your pup does not become a total “velcro dog.”
One suggestion is to leave an interactive toy out for your dog when you leave to help divert his attention from your absence. You can also leave on the TV or radio when you’re away to provide a distraction. If neither of these work, you may have to attempt desensitization training.
This will involve leaving your dog for a very short period of time, then returning. Each time you leave, you extend the period of time you are gone. The goal is to get your dog used to you not being around to the point that it will no longer be an issue. This method will take a lot of time and patience, but to avoid having a dog with separation anxiety, it will be worth it.
In extreme cases of separation anxiety, consult with your veterinarian for further assistance.